Cats, dogs and people politics

If animals could speak the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow, but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much.
Mark Twain

What can cats and dogs teach us about getting along with people? In fact, they give us wonderful examples of power, influence and charisma. Think about the general stereotypes that cats and dogs represent so well. Cats seem aloof, relaxed, in control, and wise. Dogs, on the other hand, seem overly friendly, excitable, dependent and obedient. All of this is conveyed through body language. Translating CAT & DOG non-verbal behaviours across to humans, it’s easy to spot the same two types of non-verbal behaviour in people around you.

People who demonstrate CAT behaviour exude power, authority and control. By standing tall, looking serious and speaking with few gestures, they seem cool, confident and credible. Their words command respect. People expect them to be leaders. At the other extreme, people who demonstrate DOG behaviour exude friendly, open, approachability. They smile, nod their heads and chat with ease, talking with lots of emotion and frequent gestures. Their natural people skills make them co-operative and good team players.

Why is this important? Because 92% of human communication is non-verbal. People make up their minds about another person in the first 90 seconds of interaction. These impressions then dictate how they respond as well as determining hierarchy. So, words have less impact than body language, voice tone, gestures, facial expression, and overall energy. Instead of focusing on the content of what to say, pay attention to the overall delivery.

When could this be crucial? Whenever you need to make sure your communication is understood the way you mean it. Getting your non-verbals to match your message means you’ll increase your congruence, understanding, clarity and trust. Just think about those important exchanges you have with clients, your boss, your partner, your kids or at meetings. If you’ve ever wondered why such conversations didn’t go well, learning Non-Verbal Intelligence skills will help.

Day to day interactions require being able to assess what kind of moods other people are in, what reactions to expect and whether or not it’s a good time to ask that question. What if you could read people better and communicate in ways more likely to gain understanding and agreement? If you could accurately assess non-verbal behaviour, you’d know when you have permission to speak. You’d know what approach to use in different situations. How useful would it be to correctly identify the people politics, the hierarchy of power, so that you respond and satisfy those expectations?

Most people demonstrate a mixture of both CAT & DOG behaviours, depending on mood and the situation. However, they also tend to have a habitual preference towards one or the other. This makes it easier to predict how a person will react and what kind of interaction will work best. Both CAT & DOG behaviours are useful and appropriate in different situations.

How is this useful? First you need to identify whether the person you are communicating with has more CAT or DOG tendencies. Then you must quickly assess what outcome you want, and what protocols need to be considered. Then it’s easy to choose how to respond appropriately, just by making small changes to your natural style.

Consider the body language of CATS: aloof, arrogant, quiet, still, in control, focused on their own interests, and quite happy to be alone. Compared to CATS, DOGS seem more friendly, gregarious, constantly moving, barking, panting, eager to please and happy to follow a master. You can’t teach a CAT, punish him or reward him – he just ignores you and carries on doing whatever he chooses to do. A DOG, however, responds well to praise, and can be taught lots of tricks. But the sensitive dog typically overreacts to punishment. Fights between the two are usually won by CATS.

People who demonstrate lots of CAT behaviour exude more credibility, power, autonomy and leadership. If these are qualities that you need to develop, just changing your delivery style will help win people’s respect. People who demonstrate more DOG behaviour exude more approachability, cooperation, friendliness, teamwork and competence. If you’ve been told you lack such people skills, then learning to soften your delivery style will help win cooperation. The art is knowing when to use which style.

Want to learn more? Why not join us for our 2 day intensive on NON-VERBAL INTELLIGENCE, 26, 27 June? It’s fun! It’s enlightening! You’ll discover so much about how to read people and improve communication, you’ll never look back.

Never mistake talking for conversation.
Anyone can play the notes, the magic is in the intervals, in the phrasing.

Susan Scott

© Arielle Essex